Shiffrin wins city event to boost overall WCup lead
STOCKHOLM — In absence of her main rival, Mikaela Shiffrin strengthened her position in the race for the overall World Cup title Tuesday by winning a parallel slalom city event, while Linus Strasser became the surprise winner of the men’s competition.
Shiffrin’s 28th win in her 99th World Cup start stretched the American’s lead over defending champion Lara Gut to 180 points. The Swiss skier skipped the event to rest a sore right arm and thigh after hooking a gate in a super-G in Italy on Sunday.
“I came here for a reason. I am happy to get that crossed off the list,” said Shiffrin after her maiden win in a city event, which also counts toward the slalom standings.
“It was a great show tonight. I think everybody enjoyed it. We could hear everybody screaming. This is really fun,” added Shiffrin, who can become the first American overall champion since Lindsey Vonn won her fourth title in 2012.
Vonn returned just weeks ago from an 11-month injury layoff and did not qualify for the event, where racers compete head-to-head in a knock-out format, with the winner over two runs advancing to the next round.
Only the slalom top 12 and the four best ranked skiers from the overall standings were allowed to start.
In the final between the two top-ranked slalom skiers, Shiffrin won both runs against Veronika Velez Zuzulova of Slovakia.
The result also boosted Shiffrin’s chances to win the discipline title for a fourth time. The Olympic champion leads Velez Zuzulova by 145 points with two races remaining.
If Shiffrin finishes third or better in the March 11 slalom in Squaw Valley, California, she wraps up the title even a week before the World Cup finals in Aspen, Colorado.
Nina Loeseth of Norway placed third after defeating Frida Hansdotter of Sweden. Hansdotter is the defending World Cup slalom champion, who took the title last season when Shiffrin missed five races because of a knee injury.
Last year’s winner Wendy Holdener was beaten in the opening round by Swiss teammate Melanie Meillard.
In the men’s competition, both pre-race favorites lost in the opening round.
Five-time overall champion Marcel Hirscher got edged in both runs by Aleksander Aamodt Kilde. The Norwegian, who has never competed in a World Cup slalom, won the heats against the Austrian by 0.02 and 0.01 seconds, respectively.
“Last year I won by two hundreds, now I lose by three hundreds. That’s part of the deal at those events,” Hirscher said. “You can’t underestimate anyone. Kilde had great starts into his runs.”
Hirscher’s 60-point lead in the discipline standings remained intact as the runner-up, defending World Cup slalom champion Henrik Kristoffersen, also went out in the first round.
Kristoffersen skied off the course in his opening run against Strasser, and the Norwegian failed to make up his regulatory 0.5-second deficit in the second run.
It opened up the way for the German to land a surprise victory. Strasser hadn’t even qualified for the event but replaced German teammate Felix Neureuther, who rested a knee injury.
Strasser beat France’s Alexis Pinturault in the final for his first career win. Strasser had only two previous top 10s, with fifth place in a slalom in Schladming two years ago being his best result.
“I am here instead of Felix, because of his knee,” Strasser said. “He said, ‘come on boy, this is your chance. You are in it to win it.’ And I took my chance. It feels amazing.”
Sweden’s Mattias Hargin delighted the home crowd by winning the small final against Dave Ryding of Britain, who missed his second top-three result in nine days by 0.24 seconds.
Last week, Ryding became the first British skier in 35 years to reach a World Cup podium by coming runner-up in a slalom in Kitzbuehel.
The city event was the last World Cup race before the world championships, which start in St. Moritz, Switzerland, on Monday.